In honor of National Social Work Month and Women’s History Month, we are highlighting a MarionMade! social worker.
Jacqueline Ringer started her social work career over 20 years ago. She knew social work was for her when she went to an open house in high school where the core values of social work were presented and she immediately connected with it.
“I was always a social worker. My heart is for other people,” Ringer said. “I was given the gift of a strong voice and advocate for the vulnerable.”
Ringer is from Marion and knew she wanted to return here after college.
“There was no question – I wanted to return to Marion after graduation and raise my future children here. Marion is an amazing community, I wanted to be a part of that,” Ringer said. “Marion felt comfortable. While growing up I did not have extended family here, I always remember feeling supported by other adults in my life. I wanted my children to feel that level of support.”
When Ringer was completing her bachelor’s degree program, she was first exposed to child protection. Right before she graduated, her mother called her to tell her about an opening for an investigator at Marion County Children Services.
“It had children in the name, so I applied,” Ringer said. “I had no idea what I was getting into.”
Ringer notes her first two years were a learning experience of new cultures and experiences.
“I was teased for being bossy as a kid, but I was able to learn I was born this way for a reason,” Ringer said. “My voice could be used for good.”
Ringer started as an investigator. She worked in several roles at the agency before she became the director. While her job is difficult, she feels inspired.
“What keeps me going is knowing that I have a purpose. It’s hard, but I sit back and remember, ‘If not you, then who?’” said Ringer. “I know I have a passion, my agency has a voice and I work to equip my social workers with that voice to advocate for children and families.”
People make Ringer feel hopeful for Marion’s future.
“We are a resource-rich community. We know how to locate resources or work with the right agencies in Marion to connect families to what they need,” Ringer said. “Marion is creative. We can remove silos and barriers to get people what they need.”
Ringer notes the teamwork of organizations in Marion has a large bearing on the rise of the community.
“Collaboration has expanded. We used to present needs and weren’t able to find help. Now we mention needs and can work together to creatively connect families to local resources,” said Ringer.
Ringer noted there are organizations that have started and support children and families creatively.
“Royal Family KIDS and Be the Village were created to help support our children and families through their own unique ways. They saw gaps that no agency had a responsibility to meet, or the capability to stretch to meet, and they stepped in to provide this care,” Ringer said. “Be the Village has even expanded to offer some support for kinship families.”
Marion provides kinship supports to those who stepped in to care for relatives or friends, in order to keep the children from entering foster care.
“To circle back, we were able to offer kinship support initially because of collaboration. The ADAMH Board knew of our need and was able to help us obtain funding to hire a kinship support worker,” Ringer said. “We are better because of the relationships we have formed in the community to move Marion forward.”
Ringer reiterates the necessity of social workers.
“Social workers help heal a community. People are realizing the importance of our roles,” Ringer said. “Not just in child protection, but in making a positive impact.”